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Madeira

The Music of The Mountains.

The mountains towered above us and  the alpine air was rare, clear and fresh.  

The previous night we had watched the rays of the setting sun change the colour in snow that still remained on the heights.  Dark amber had changed to purple before the peaks disappeared into a velvety dark night studded with stars.

It seemed to be a magic place.  I had often looked down from a plane on the great alpine chain of Europe. It stretches almost  seven hundred and fifty miles from near the Cote d’Azure in France to Slovenia, (the most northern part of former Yugoslavia.)  

It had seemed huge then, but from the ground the view was awesome.

We were in Northern Italy amid the Dolomites where there are fourteen massifs each with at least one peak around ten thousand feet. Some how the feeling of achievement about an earlier trek up Ben Nevis began to evaporate.

 

Flying out from Scotland with KLM-uk to Milan we had driven up the beautiful shores of Lake Garda before the mountain range rose before us and we took the winding roads up into the Dolomiti di Brenta.  It was there,  at Viote,  five thousand feet up on Mont Bondone,  that we discovered an Alpine Botanical Garden.  

Following it’s scented paths we found  blooms that ranged from Wild Orchids to Rhododendrons.  It contains over two thousand species of plants from the mountains of five continents.  With an entrance fee of only £1 it was excellent value.

 

We took to the hairpin bends again and met some walkers who were leaving their cars and heading for the ‘Refuge’ on the Dolomiti di Benta a few of them were carrying musical instruments. They were taking part in a series  of ‘high altitude concerts.’

It continues at different locations until the end of August with musicians, many of international repute,  taking their instruments and joining the public in climbing up the valley to the concert venue. These are usually held on open spaces near the various mountain refuges.  The Mountain Choir from  Trentino also perform in the mountains every Saturday morning.

 

 

 

With some four thousand miles of paths to choose from there were walks to satisfy hikers at all levels of experience.  Over half of the area  is covered with woodland and mountain pasture and information offices can provide maps and itineraries with directions to a hundred and fifty mountain lodges or refuges.

The trails included a ‘Fort Trek’ which  could lead you to seven Austro-Hungarian forts.  If you prefer to explore using the car we found that there were castles that you could  visit and we picked up a booklet that covered six different itineraries.

Many of the castles were in spectacular settings and there were far more than you could ever visit in one trip.   My favourite was Castel Toblino. It was built off the shore at  Lake Toblino, where,  like our Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland,  it sits on an outcrop of rock. The mediaeval battles are long forgotten and the only invasion now comes from the tourists who occupy the restaurant,  or as I did, sit quietly  sipping wine on the terrace beside the lake. At £1.20 a glass it seemed to be a pretty civilised  way of building up the suntan. (Each Thursday you can tipple to the accompaniment medieval instruments played by musicians in period costume.)

 

The area was called the ‘Valley of the Lakes.’ The largest lake was Lake Garda and at the beginning of the century the only transport to the little villages on it’s shores was by ferry boat.   These of course still run, there is even a hydrofoil, but now two roads run up the side of the lake.    It is beautiful and the area was popular with British tourists who arrived there by coach long before planes had us jetting off to the Spanish Islands and  Costas.

 

In the summer the waters around Riva del Garda  are alive with little sailboats and wind-surfers. If you don’t tackle these sports,  it is worth getting afloat on one of the tour boats as you really need to get out on to the lake to grasp the scale of the mountains that rise above you.

On the other side of the Mountains were the towns of  Rovetto  and Trenteno where the locals simply oozed style.  They  promenaded past the designer shops and chattered like starlings at sunset in the square where water cascaded from the large ‘Neptune Fountain.’ . In the warm and balmy evenings,  the Piazza Doumo seemed to become the ‘lounge of the town’

A festival is held in neighbouring  Rovereto in September, where Mozart gave his first concert in Italy  back  in 1769.   It is also a place where art enthusiasts may appreciate the modernist work of Fortunato Depero which is collected in a unique Italian “Futurist Museum” at the Caso Museo Depero.  Art was everywhere, even the wheelie bins were painted with flowers.  

We found a pleasant park and taking the riverside walk,  watched a man fishing. Sizeable fish finned against the current queuing to pass him. He caught none but like us he seemed happy enough with his place in the sun.

 

Factfile

Trento Tourist Office 0039 461 839 000

Italtourism (London) 0171 586 8705

Flights To Milan via Stanstead with  KLM-uk